Saturday, April 23, 2011

So Many Birds, So Little Time - Bald Eagles Like The Beach

Young Bald eagles, Atkin's Bay, Phippsburg, Maine April 18, 2011
The eagle on the left is older than the one on the right. Bald eagles like the beach!
"Hey! Give me back my iPod!" Bald eagles like listening to music.

"Watch me nail this landing!"

Bald eagles, two youngsters, probably 3rd and 4th year and an adult, Phippsburg, Maine April 19, 2011
Remember that you can click on any of these pictures to see them larger. In the photo to the top right of the bottom collage, there are two eagles mixing it up so closely that they look like one.

     This is the time of year when I start gardening for other people, or "Weeding For Dollars." From now until July fourth, it's exhilarating! The brown months have folded seamlessly into the newness of the green months. The whole planet is coming on full force with blooming flowers, fresh air and signing birds. Over the winter I had become somewhat starved for birds. Our part of the earth, muffled in snow, didn't hold much for bird song. I'm a listener, too. I was so wanting for the sounds of birds that a few times, I imagined I heard birds when cracking, frozen branches and keening wind were the sources. Now, the trees and sky are alive! From every quarter, someone is singing, even me! I've been thinking when my back finally gives out, perhaps I 'll start a career in opera. I'm sure my children will be pleased that I have goals.
     I love the work, but like all things, sometimes it can be a real drag. There are the days when it's hot, buggy, or wet. This first part of the season, it's cold which will only give way to Black flies, mosquitoes, ticks and Brown Tail moth rashes. Have I mentioned Poison Ivy? But, for all of that, I am out of doors in gorgeous places. The gardens are beautiful, this I know because otherwise I'd have some explaining to do to myself. And I usually don't start talking to myself until the middle of August.
     I do get resentful though when I feel like I'm being taken away from photography. I often remind myself that toiling in other people's yards like a Bend-Over-Betty lawn ornament does give me opportunities to see amazing things. I almost always get a few photographs out of it, too. So many birds does make it hard to concentrate on weeds, though. I have to stop looking up for every tweet, chip and chur to pull, hack and tease. And rake. Then rake some more and rake again. And haul. There's so much to be done and so many distractions, yet so little time.
     I may be  jumping the gun by saying this, but I am finding the gardening work easier this year. Having  spent the winter working out and controlling my consumption, I've lost thirty seven pounds. At just five feet tall, so that's a load o' lard, over twenty four percent of myself, to be exact. So, I'm moving with comparative facility and energy this year. I was recently asked if I had some medical emergency that prompted the weight loss. "Yes," I said. "Oh dear! Are you alright? What was it?" the inquirer pried. "When bending over to tie my shoes meant holding my breath and suffering the spins, that was the medical emergency," I explained. They thought I was joking, but I wasn't. I've even given up red wine, which anyone who knows me would never have predicted possible. So, when I nonetheless had a full blown hallucination this morning, I was taken by complete surprise.
     I've slimmed down enough that I no longer dread looking in the mirror. I don't even avoid it. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's true. It's been a decade since I've been able to stomach my own stomach. But today, I caught my reflection and saw that I have the beginnings of an abdominal six pack! Well, maybe only a four pack, and possibly merely better definition of a couple of rolls, but something different from what has ever jiggled hello to me from the mirror before. I have a  beach body! And I don't mean one of those human potato people that unabashedly parades themselves on the Volga River, either. I have always admired their guts, or perhaps I should say courage. Those portly women looking like half cooked dumplings in bikinis seemed to like themselves well enough nor have cared what anyone else thought. Their junk in the trunk wasn't enviable, but I have held their bravery in high regard.
   Now, I feel like a super hero with abs of steel and I'm shedding my bathrobe! I'm going to celebrate my newly remodelled temple with a belly piercing! About 1970, when I was fifteen, my mother wore a navel jewel. That was before body piercings unless one had come from the Congo or some other exotic place, but my mother came from Topsham, Maine. She was a mill worker with five children to feed, but she managed to have belly jewels!
     She wore several colored jewels which she interchanged to titillate my father. Revelling in her own outrageousness, she revealed  the jewels to us children when she swapped out the colors. "Look! I've found an emerald green jewel!" She would squeal with delight, lifting her shirt up for us to see. I was at once, horrified and captivated by her belly flesh which looked to me like cottage cheese. "How does she keep them in there?" I wondered to myself. "Glue? Suction?" I never dared ask. On what little TV programming there was then, men and women were not even shown in the same beds! Yet, my mother pranced around our tiny, gundgy kitchen flaunting a navel jewel. She staunchly believed she was doing us a favor by being a living example of not giving a damn what anyone thought of her body. Her parenting skills were way ahead of the curve in that regard. So, to honor her, and myself, I'm going for the gold: belly piercing it is. My deflated middle doesn't look like cottage cheese, though. It's more like a slumped Brie. Vive la France! I don't want a timid stud nor jewel for my navel novelty, either. I've commissioned my husband to find something unique from the dump. I'm thinking a chrome hub cap might do just the trick. The glinting disk should be visible from space. Be looking for me on the beach this summer with my new, shimmering field mark.   
...................................................................................
     Bald eagles do like the beach. They are usually found near water and in large numbers when there is enough food, like ducks and scavenged fish. The numbers of eagles in Phippsburg has increased tremendously in the past decade. I see 3-5 of them every day without trying and know of two active nests close by. I frequently see them when I'm gardening, though how I do this bent over to the ground is an as yet, undiscovered talent.  I have yet to see a Bald eagle sporting a navel jewel or belly piercing, but will report promptly if I do. The top series of photographs of the eagles on the beach was a lucky find after a long day of spring garden clean up. The two eagles are about a year apart. The eagle with the whiter head is the older one. Bald eagles are sexually dimorphic; males and females have the same plumage and only vary slightly in size. The second set of images was captured the day afterward, also while I was gardening. The two young eagles in the bottom collage are the same two that were on the beach. They could be siblings, but not nest mates. The mature Bald eagle flying with them is probably one of their parents.
     Golden eagles are seen in Maine on rare occasions. Though they are often confused with Bald eagles in various stages of plumage, they are not even closely related. Plentiful in the western Rockies, Golden eagles are birds of mountainous areas that hunt mammals and other birds. Though Golden eagles have a different body shape than Bald eagles, both birds as juveniles have longer tails, broader wings and stouter bills than the adults. A young Bald eagle may look to the inexperienced eye like an adult Golden eagle.
     Bald eagles have brown feathers speckled with white usually until they are five years old. They are sexually mature when they have white heads. They may develop fully balded heads as early as three years, but that's very rare. A significant field mark is leg covering. Golden eagles' legs are completely feather covered, while a young Bald eagles' legs are bare, like little boys wearing nickers before big boy pants. Golden eagles are most easily confused with Bald eagles as first year juveniles when they have a white rump. In flight, as juveniles, they also show white under their wings. Bald eagles also have white under their wings as juveniles through their second year. This is the plumage phase when less experienced birders are apt to erroneously report having seen a Golden eagle. I've done it myself. Zut alors! In birding as in medicine, we say "If you hear hoof beats, think horse, not zebra." In Maine, if you see a funky looking eagle, it could be a Golden, but it's more likely to be a Bald eagle that hasn't come into its star spangled, balded glory. It's simply not mature enough to flaunt its navel jewel.


Thanks for some of the information to:

Wikipedia.com

Sibley, D.A., The Sibley Guide To The Birds (2001), Knopf: New York (2000), pp. 126-127

35 comments:

  1. I really love the large raptors and enjoy watching our white tailed eagles in the summer time. I enjoyed seeing your bald eagles and reading a little about them. What magnificent birds - I've been watching http://www.ustream.tv/decoraheagles this spring and am hooked on them.

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  2. John Wheatley
    John Wheatley says:
    Great Eagle shots. Congrats on shedding the avoirdupois.

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  3. Karen, Thanks for the best bunny wishes. :)

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  4. Marie, I'll look up that cam. We've got one here that I"m going to post about soon and will post the address. Thanks so much for looking at my blog. I also will be looking up more about your White-tailed eagles. I've heard of them.

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  5. John, Thank you for the compliments about my images and my 'image!' :)

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  6. Angela M. Altomare commented on your note "So Many Birds, So Little Time - Bald Eagles Like The Beach".
    Angela wrote: "You really are an amazing photographer and an amazing writer."

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  7. Lydia Elise Lightcap Rhoads commented on your note "So Many Birds, So Little Time - Bald Eagles Like The Beach".
    Lydia wrote: "As always, hubby and I are enjoying your pics!!!"

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  8. In the air they look so much like the turkey buzzards we have in abundance in Hampton Roads, Virginia, that unless I can see the white heads I don't know how to tell them apart.
    Matt Paust
    April 24, 2011 09:53 AM

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  9. Matt, do you have Black vultures there? I'm guessing you do and they would be even more difficult to distinguish from Golden eagles. We have Turkey vultures here (rarely Blacks), but I can always tell them eagles by the way that they fly and the long fingers on the TVs' wings. Grand birds, all of them! Thanks for the read and comment.

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  10. Great photos! Must be in molt, they're a tad raggedy. We have both bald and goldens, they're all around here. We have such good feeding grounds, between river, ocean, farm lands and old forest, they never starve. An owl has built a nest in a big snag out past my back yard, where it hoots every evening. I've never seen it, though.
    Indelible Ink
    April 24, 2011 09:02 PM

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  11. Indelible Ink, thanks very much for the read, comment and compliment. Nice to have you aboard. I'm assumming they are molting, too. I didn't dare ask why they hadn't combed their hair. Having that owl so close would drive me crazy because I'd have to be checking constantly to try to get a shot and I'd get even less done than I am now!

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  12. We are close to their migration point here near the Susquehanna River canal, they nest there and sometimes fly over our home and sit in a tree and fascinate us for awhile. They are huge and regal. Wonderful photos and kudos on the navel jewel, what a wonderful mom!
    rita shibr
    April 24, 2011 09:07

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  13. Robin, I don't know if we have the black vultures, too, or if the ones I call turkey buzzards are really the black. But the "fingers" on their wings, as I recall them, are identical to those on the wings of the eagles in your photos. The buzzards (is that just another name for "vultures?") circle as they look for prey. The few eagles I've seen flying soar higher and seem more to be simply enjoying the flight - and I've never seen more than one eagle in the air at a time.
    Matt Paust
    April 24, 2011 10:12

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  14. Great post, Robin! Your description of your belly brightened up my morning! I am struggling with the same weight issue. My recent illness made me lose 5 lbs, but it's all already coming back. I don't just want to lose pounds - I want to lose years! Impossible dream, I know. Happy spring to you, good birding and good weeding!

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  15. Thank you, Hilke. I can say that losing this much weight has given me years, honeslty. I feel younger, more agile, stronger. So, it's not at all impossible. I'm glad I made you laugh. I hear that's very good for lingering bronchitis, a kind of homeopathic respiratory therapy. :)

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  16. Great series Robin!! Boom & gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

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  17. Love your Eagle shots

    I could do with losing a few ponds myself, but not sure about giving up the red wine. That's good for my heart :)

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  18. Gary and holdingmoments, thanks for the reads and comments. Truth be told, "holding" - last night I had a glass. I said I was trying to lose weight, not that I had totally cracked up! And yes, there is the heart to concider! Have one on me, will ya?

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  19. I got quite a kick out of your "if you hear hoof beats," comment. I heard it first this way,"If you hear hoof beats around the corner expect a horse not a zebra!" Same thing I guess. I was given this sage advise on how to efficiently diagnose washing machines, not people though. The other good one that stuck with me was "Never complain about your sore toe to a man who has no foot!"
    Oops, Love the eagle pic's of course. They are the things of dreams! ;-)WBW

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  20. This is really a great action series. Well done!

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  21. Enjoyed the Eagles playing and the detailed info.

    Good news on the weight loss Robin... maybe a smaller sized bathrobe then .. lol. Take care with the gardening; you don't want to get lost in the tall borders!

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  22. Interesting post and photos about the eagles. The rest is good motivation for me!

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  23. Sweet shots of the Eagles!! CONGrats on the weightloss---
    I had a belly ring for a yr it ws such a PIA that I let it grow up ...my navel sits right in the center of my waist where all my waistbands sit and it was a constant bother--Hope you have luck with yours it hurts like a...*&^% for a while--

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  24. WOW! It must have been wonderful to see!
    Very nice pictures :)

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  25. Very interesting post. Come and weed my garden after the snow leaves and I can plant it.

    I love the pictures of the eagles. They are always fun to watch.

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  26. Great captures! I would love to see this many at once.

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  27. Fantastic series of images.
    Many thanks for sharing.

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  28. Great captures Robin! Atkins Bay is a great spot for this kind of action.

    The Butchies were fighting over a duck one of them captured here on the cover the other day. They are also chasing Osprey after they catch a fish.

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  29. CONGRATULATIONS on: 1) the weight loss. What an amazing accomplishment. 2) a great story 3) amazing pictures.
    Thank you
    Chrissie Pissie
    April 26, 2011 09:48 PM

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  30. Thanks for pointing out the doubled up rapture capture. I would not have gotten that otherwise. Forget what I said about trusting your reader, explain it when you think I might not get it. God yes, get a new bathrobe!bb

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  31. Wonderful captures -- cool to see them on the beach!

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  32. Loved your narrative..."Funny Girl!" Do you have a summer weight bathrobe in a smaller size? You'll be needing it! Great photos as always!
    HG

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  33. Great photos! I almost enjoy seeing juveniles more than adult bald eagles...almost.

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